This summer I traveled to Cádiz, Spain to conduct research on the role of immigrants in the Spanish health care system, as demonstrated through the implementation of their rights to access public health services. Through the study of a variety of resources—from newspaper articles to government publications to topic-related presentations—I soon learned about the obstacles to practical implementation of these legislated rights. This problematic implementation originates with legislation in which the language indisputably defines the fundamental right to health care without providing concrete information on how to implement it. Even so, Spain’s 17 autonomous communities, which principally administrate health care services, endeavor to facilitate immigrants’ access through measures that facilitate greater comprehension between them and autochthonous Spaniards. In Andalusia, for example, these measures included informational brochures translated into several languages and a resource guide aimed at educating health professionals regarding issues specific to immigrant health. Yet, even the most well-intentioned resources may founder, whether through their lack of key information or through inadvertent miscommunication. Though the government needs to be the major representative among the entities involved in the implementation of the immigrants’ right to health care, it also requires the support of other entities, such as NGOs and other members of the private sector. The economic crisis that began in 2008 and continues today complicates this already problematic implementation of immigrants’ rights by diverting attention away from its original goals and toward more challenging practical, economic concerns.
The research project I initially planned, in some ways, could not be more different than that which is now in its final stages. At the same time, however, my overall goals remained the same and provided me with a measure of stability as I (quite literally) ventured into uncharted territory.
Initially I intended for my research to focus on the bounds of Spanish national identity as communicated through different sources’ attitudes toward immigrants’ access to health care services. After reading many newspaper articles and listening to the opinions expressed by Spaniards themselves, the focus of my research shifted toward the implementation of immigrants’ fundamental right to Spanish health care services during the ongoing economic crisis. This somewhat altered focus blends what were originally secondary facets of my research topic.
My research began at the end of May with two goals in mind: 1.) determine the extent to which people’s attitudes toward immigrants accessing Spanish health care services reflect the limits of the Spanish nation, and 2.) finish the project—blog entries and all—by the end of June or the early part of July, at the latest. Good intentions aside, take a look at the date stamp of this blog entry, my first, and you already know the outcome of the latter goal. Hopefully this entry and the next two will demonstrate with similar clarity the outcome of my first goal, as well. As is true of many worthwhile journeys, my research—truly a mental and physical journey—has involved several unanticipated turns, stops, and, fortunately, breakthroughs.